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The Jumping Flame Mark as Favorite (5 Favorites)

DEMONSTRATION in Observations, Phase Changes, Combustion, Chemical Change. Last updated July 25, 2023.


In this demonstration, students will observe that the vapor of an extinguished candle flame can be ignited so that the candle flame will burn again.

Grade Level

Elementary and Middle school


By the end of this demonstration, students should be able to

  • Identify changes in states of matter.
  • Recognize that fuel, as a gas (wax vapor), is flammable.

Chemistry Topics

This demonstration supports students’ understanding of

  • Chemical Reactions
  • Chemical Change
  • States of Matter
  • Phase Changes


Teacher Preparation: minimal

Lesson: 5-10 minutes

Demo thejumpingflame materials


  • Candle
  • Candle Holder
  • Lighter or matches


  • Students should wear proper safety gear during chemistry demonstrations. Safety goggles and lab apron are required.
  • Always use caution around open flames. Keep flames away from flammable substances.
  • Always be aware of an open flame. Do not reach over it, tie back hair, and secure loose clothing.
  • Open flames can cause burns. Liquid wax is hot and can burn the skin.
  • An operational fire extinguisher should be in the classroom.

Teacher Notes

  • This is a very engaging demonstration! You may want to do this multiple times for your students.
  • It is important to practice this with the actual candle you will use. It seems that tall candles work better than a tea light. The type of wax may impact it as well. If you practice it beforehand you will know for certain.
  • There is a video included showing the demonstration in slow motion.
  • You may want to consider showing the slow-motion video to your students afterwards so they can see specifically what happens in the demonstration.
  • Procedure:
    1. Place the candle in the candle holder.
    2. Light the candle and allow it to burn for ~10 seconds before proceeding.
    3. Blow out the candle and allow the smoke to begin moving away from the wick.
    4. Place the flame of the lighter into the path of the smoke, 2-3 inches from the wick.
    5. The flame will ignite the wax vapors in the smoke, and the flame will appear to jump back to the wick, and it will continue burning!
  • This is a good opportunity to discuss topics such as:
    • Chemical change/chemical reaction – A chemical reaction occurs when two or more substances (reactants) interact in a way to create one or more new substances (products). A chemical reaction occurs when the atoms of the reactants rearrange and bond together in different ways to form the products.
    • Combustion reactions – A combustion reaction is a type of chemical reaction in which a fuel usually reacts with oxygen to produce heat and light. Often the fuel is a hydrocarbon such as gasoline, methane, or wax.
    • Changes of state - Changes in states of matter, such as melting and vaporization of the wax. These are physical changes, not chemical changes.
  • Why does it work? A candle burns because the heat from the flame vaporizes the candle wax and burns that wax vapor at its wick. When you blow out the flame, the hot wax that was burning at the end of the wick will not burn completely, but will still vaporize, and a small amount will be in the smoke that you can see when the flame is blown out. 
  • The wax vapor is still flammable, and as long as there is enough of it present in the smoke, it will ignite when contacted by the new flame. The flame will burn the wax vapor as the flame moves back to the wick where it will relight the wick and continue to burn steadily.